Patent Myth-Busting

 

Myth #1 – I can get an international patent covering the world.

There is no such thing as a worldwide patent. Some regional patents are available such as a European, African, and Gulf states systems, but mostly patents will need to be filed and/or enforced in each individual country.

 

Myth #2 – You can only patent a breakthrough idea.

The three main criteria for a patent is that a product or process is novel, inventive and has industrial application. Novelty is easy – is there something different about your product or process? Industrial application is another easy one – just make sure you don’t try and patent something beyond the laws of physics! Inventive step is greyer – each patent office has their own test for inventiveness, which will be different to whether you think something is innovative and going to change the world. Generally, if the novel parts of your product or process provide a technical advantage over what is currently out there, you stand a good chance of getting a patent for it.

 

Myth #3 – I’ve got a patent so I’m free to operate.

Patentability is different, and separate, from infringement. Having a patent can stop others from practicing your invention, but doesn’t necessarily stop you from infringing someone else’s patent. Broad claim drafting could mean your commercial activities are protected by your patent but also fall within the scope of someone else’s patents. Independent freedom-to-operate searches are commonly completed to review this separately from filing a patent application, if the level of risk warrants it.

 

Myth #4 – Patent costs are predictable.

Patent costs mainly come from official fees and attorney fees. Official fees are largely predictable barring lots of pages and claims fees. Attorney fees are less predictable. These will mainly depend on the complexity of each case, and work needed to correspond with the patent offices to get a patent application granted. Then there are variable overseas associate charges for foreign applications to get international protection (patent applications need to be filed in each country and each have their own systems). This can lead to hidden costs that you may not have been aware of when applying for a patent. Some advisors can provide up-front fixed charges (like us!) which can be a big help in budgeting for a patent application and means you won’t be lumped with a big unexpected bill.

 

Myth #5 – You can’t patent computer programs in the UK and Europe.

In the UK and Europe, you can’t patent a computer program, as such. This is because the program script is generally protected by copyright (which is free and automatic in the UK). However, if the computer program is doing something technical, you may be able to get a patent for that. The main issue in the UK and Europe will be arguing if something is technical in the eyes of the patent offices, and whether it can be used for assessing novelty and inventive step.